In the tradition of appointing days for “celebrating” (read new ways for spending money!!) this week has seen umpteen advertisements for “best gift-ideas for your mom” and “offers for buying gold this Akshay Tritiya”. Every inbox of mine is full of messages/quotes/activities/offers for these two days. Mother’s Day is an imported festival, but Akshay-Tritiya is the re-discovery of an ancient tradition. Much of this awareness can be credited to the vigorous campaigns conducted by banks, jewellery shops, real estate developers etc who have used it to capitalise on the materialistic urge in people. Thanks to them we all know that Akha-Teej or Akshay-Tritiya is the most auspicious day for buying/investing in gold or similar expensive investments (the belief being that if you buy gold on this day, it will never diminish). To be honest till a decade earlier, i wasn’t even aware of such a date in our Vedic calendar. We were stationed in Bengaluru when i first saw the mad rush at gold showrooms on this day and since then every year it has continued to gain in prominence. Nothing in our scriptures is without valid reason so i began to read about what makes this day so significant and the reasons are not one but many.
In Sanskrit ‘akshaya’ means inexhaustible, or that which can never diminish or deteriorate. The second part of the name, tritiya, refers to the fact that it falls on the third tithi (lunar day). It is celebrated on the third day of the bright fortnight (shukla-paksha) in the lunar month of Vaishakha. Astronomically the sun and moon are believed to be at their most exalted equal brightness on this day. Incidentally often in our lunar calendar, some tithis can be absent in counting and some can be extra, but Akshay-Tritiya is one day which is never “absent” from the lunar calendar. The day is considered auspicious for starting new ventures, the legend being that any venture initiated on this teej continues to grow and prosper ~ it being the golden day for eternal success (an interesting trivia~ akha-teej falling on a “Rohini-star-Monday” is considered even more auspicious!)
Among the many stories and legends associated with this day, some of the more prominent ones are~
# It was on this day that Lord Ganesha began writing the great epic Mahabharata to the dictation of the sage Ved Vyasa.
# It is traditionally celebrated as the birthday of Lord Parshurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu (the day being associated chiefly with the worship of Vishnu)
# In mythology this day is said to mark the beginning of the Treta-yuga as also the day when the sacred Ganges descended to the earth.
# The Goddess Annapoorna Devi was born on this day
# In the Mahabharatha, Yudhishtira received the Akshay-patra on this day, which he then used to serve food for all the needy in his kingdom (hence the importance of charity done on this day)
# Kubera received his wealth and position as the custodian of wealth and property with Goddess Lakshmi on this day.
# It was on this day that poor Sudama, Lord Krishna’s best friend, visited him to greet him after Lord Krishna became the King.
# Another legend says that it was this very day when Dusshasana, the brother of Duryodhana, tried to unveil Draupadi’s saree in the royal court, where Lord Krishna then protected her by providing the ‘unending-saree’
# In more recent history, Adi Shankara recited the ‘Kanak-dhar-stotr” on this day for the sake of the poor couple at whose house he stopped for bhiksha and was offered their only available gooseberry.
# Also, the temples of Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri reopen on this day after remaining closed for winter. The construction of the chariots for the Rath-Yatra of Jagannath Puri begins on this day.
# It is also the birthday of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation!
(Many thanks to Wikipedia, ISKCON and other Hindu sites for providing all this information.)